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Mission success for experiments in Mobility Guardian 23

  • Published
  • By Rachel Sansano

Mobility Guardian 23 is giving U.S. and coalition forces an opportunity to experiment in the theater that matters.

“Experimenting in the Pacific is important because we’ve spent the last 20 plus years focused elsewhere in the world,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Novotney, MG23 Exercise Control Group Experiment Lead. “Testing new technology and ideas in this theater is what MG23 is all about.”

Two of these experiments, Agile Communication Systems and Magnetic Navigation, also known as MagNav, were proven to be effective during MG23 and ready for future operations.

ACS combines Wi-Fi routers, solar panels batteries and an internet connection into a portable Wi-Fi mesh network that can be used anywhere on the globe.

“Many things that we take for granted stateside, like good cell phone service and nearly universal access to a Wi-Fi connection point, go away in austere, underdeveloped environments,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Szmajda, MG23 ACS Experiment Lead. “ACS virtually eliminates those shortfalls as a standalone intranet or as a complete internet gateway.”

This generator-free device is a consolidated, ruggedly packaged, deployable Wi-Fi kit with National Security Agency level encryption, allowing it to be used for secret and unclassified communications without being a DoD network.

“Setting up ACS is just as simple as setting up the Wi-Fi router in your house. By reducing the requirements necessary to build and maintain our communications, we are enabling our Airmen to develop cross-functional skill sets,” said Novotney. “With this capability, more Airmen are capable of setting up their communication needs, leading to a faster operations tempo.”

This system can also mask a user’s presence, making it impossible for adversaries to decipher how many troops are in one location.

“This system presents the same amount of energy whether there’s two people or 2,000 people because they’re all connected to the same network,” Novotney said. “I can mask the number of people I have in a single location while enabling communication over long distances.”

In under an hour, a standard system, consisting of internet connection and five mesh Wi-Fi nodes, can be set up, providing 2,000 users with communication capabilities.

“Anything you can do while sitting at home station can now be done in the field or on an aircraft ramp anywhere in the world without costly, specialized, complicated equipment,” said Szmajda.

During MG23, C-17 flight line maintainers at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, were a group that exercised this capability. ACS gave them internet access on the flight line, which cut out entire steps of their processes. It enabled them to input logs directly into their systems without having to transcribe paper records or leave the flight line.

“ACS allows the front-line maintainer to look up and order MICAP [parts] directly rather than having to call back to a Maintenance Operations Center, which reduces errors and saves time.” said Szmajda.

“If implemented at home stations, this has the potential to save maintainers and team leads at least an hour a day which translates to saving five weeks of work over a year,” said Novotney.

MagNav was another successful experiment tested during MG23. This system improves positioning, navigation and timing for personnel and aircraft in the Pacific. Traditional GPS equipment can be jammed, degraded or spoofed, which can negatively affect aircrews. MagNav enables navigational accuracy ensuring the safety of aircrew and operational mission success.

“The Pacific is a big place, there’s a long way between islands. MagNav will help aircrews maintain enough knowledge to fly to the next point or out of the GPS area that is being degraded,” said Novotney. “This capability overcomes GPS degradation and ensures that mobility forces can continue to fly and sustain the Joint Force.”

MagNav is a compass-like device that pinpoints the location of an aircraft, boat or personnel, using the Earth’s magnetic field. It does this without using an extraterrestrial signal like satellite or GPS. A traditional compass can only show the direction that a person is facing, but MagNav is “bringing this 1,000 year old tool into the 21st century,” Novotney said.

“With other GPS alternatives, we hope for uncontested communications with satellites, good weather to provide visibility of the stars, or flying over land to use the terrain to navigate. With MagNav, we don’t hope for any of that,” said Maj. Kyle McAlpin, MG23 MagNav Experiment Lead.

In the future, MagNav will be integrated into an aircraft’s composite position solution, making it more automated and easier to use.

“MG23 is an amazing opportunity for experiments simply due to its scope,” said Novotney. “We empowered our Airmen, Allies and partners to try new things and possibly fail. The things we’ve learned from this exercise will help us overcome tomorrow’s challenges.”